I would like to preface this post by stating that I am by no means an expert on either bike path etiquette or cycling safety–I am in fact, only a very few steps up from a noob. The following post is merely a collection of observations and pet peeves I have developed on my daily bicycle commute. If you have anything to add, or refute, by all means, chime in!
I am very lucky that the city of Burlington has such a lovely and well-maintained bike path. It stretches several miles along the Lake Champlain waterfront, from the south end of Burlington all the way up to Colchester. This bike path is used by an enormous cross-section of locals–from walkers, runners, and cyclists, to moms with strollers and folks walking their dogs. I think it’s fantastic that people are getting outside and getting exercise. It’s a beautiful spot, and a great way to get around. Unfortunately, however, I’ve noticed that even though the rules are clearly posted in several areas (and sometimes even spray painted on the path itself), there’s a startling lack of rule-following, or even common sense by many bike path users.
In order to
address my own pet peeves educate the public, I have put together a list of some of the most basic courtesy and safety rules that should be followed when using a bike path (specifically, the Burlington Bikeway).
- Keep right. This is a simple one, and yet I see people running/biking/whatever in the middle or even on the left hand side of the path EVERY DAMN DAY. You should always keep right so that traffic coming toward you has room to get by, and so that a fellow cyclist or runner going at a faster pace has room to pass you.
- Pass on the left. Just like when driving a car, you should really only pass on the left. Unless the person is totally breaking rule number 1 above and is running/walking/biking on the left side of the path. Then you just do what you’ve gotta do.
- When passing, call out, or ring your bell. It’s just common courtesy to call out “On your left (or right)” when passing, so that you a) give the person a chance to move over and give you more room, and b) don’t scare the bajeezus out of them. I’ve had bikers go whizzing past without warning while I was running, and it’s fricken scary!
- Don’t pass on a curve or hill. I witnessed a really scary almost-accident last week. I was plugging along on my bike ride home, approaching a big blind curve. I could hear someone coming up fast behind me, so I pulled even further right to allow room for him to pass. As I came up to the curve, I saw two ladies riding side by side approaching from the opposite direction. Before I had time to call out a warning, the person behind me pulled out to pass and almost had a head on collision with the oncoming bikes! One of the ladies screamed and they both slammed on the brakes, then the guy managed to zip around and just kept going, no apology, no acknowledgement, no nothing. So, moral of the story, if you can’t see what’s coming, don’t pass! And be nice, for crying out loud!
- Don’t ride/walk/run more than 2 abreast. The bike path is only about 10 feet across at its widest, and is usually more like 6 or 8. If you make a huge line across the path, it’s really difficult for others to get by, or for your group to acknowledge that call of “On your left!” and move over fast enough.
- Keep your dogs and your kids close. Don’t let your leash’s flexi-lead out 20 feet, and don’t let your child wander far away from you on the wrong side of the path. I’ve had a couple of close calls where I had to come to a complete stop on the bike path, even after calling out that I needed to get by. Keep your kids and pets close enough that when another biker/runner/walker wants to pass, you can keep control of them so they don’t get run over.
- Make sure your music is turned down enough that you can hear someone call out or ring their bell. I get it, music is awesome. It can make a tough workout better, and make your long run more bearable. But if you’re rocking out so hard that when I call out “On your left” you don’t hear me and move, it’s totally not my fault if I run you over.
- Don’t stop in the middle of the bike path. If you need to stop, move over to the right as far as you can. I know that in some areas, there’s not really anywhere to go, but if you can, get off the bike path. Yes, sometimes shoes come untied. Yes, the views are pretty and it’s nice to take pictures or regroup with your friends, but if you come to a dead stop in the middle of the path and I can’t get around you, it’s not going to end well.
All snarkiness aside, I really do love riding my bike to work. It’s only sometimes that I want to punch people. And to be fair, the rules should be posted in more places along the bike path–are you listening, City of Burlington?
Do you ever commute on your bike?
Do you have any suggestions for bike path etiquette/safety?